Dubai: The Expo 2020 now has a face – literally. Well, two faces, actually; one of an eight-year-old Emirati girl called Latifa, and another of her nine-year-old brother, Rashid.
The two children are the official mascots of the Expo 2020, and are joined by three robots who are also mascots of the mega event happening from October next year. The bots, which resemble Star Wars’ BB-8 character, are called Alif, Opti, and Terra, and represent Dubai’s and the Expo’s focus on technology and innovation.
The mascots were unveiled at an event attended by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai. Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai and chairman of the Executive Council, was also in attendance.
Each robot represents one of the Expo’s three main themes: opportunity, mobility, and sustainability.
At a launch event on Thursday, creators of the characters said the names of robots come from the first letter of the Arabic alphabet (Alif), the word ‘opportunity’ (Opti), and the Latin word for Earth (Terra). They said the process of creating the mascots took eight months, and every part of the mascots – from their names to their clothes – is meant to embody different aspects of the UAE’s culture and traditions.
Amna Abulhoul, creative director of ceremonies at Expo Dubai, said the robots were deliberately created with no nationality so as not to exclude non-Emiratis from being part of the characters representing the Expo.
The characters were created by a team of Emirati employees from the Expo Dubai.
Though it is not a mascot per se, the Expo team also included the Ghaf tree, one they named Salama, in Rashid and Latifa’s story. The tree, whose scientific name is Prosopis cineraria, was declared the national tree of the UAE in 2008 and is known for its ability to withstand harsh conditions such as drought.
The mascots will soon start appearing in advertisements and on buses across Dubai, and merchandise such as toys will be on sale from 2020.
Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of the higher committee of the Expo 2020 Dubai, said in a statement that the purpose of the mascots was to strengthen emotional connection to the event and bring the spirit of the Expo to life.
“The Expo 2020 mascots have been thoughtfully created to reflect the tradition of storytelling that is core to the region, highlighting our belief that when we come together, we can achieve great things…” he said.
“These characters are a reflection of the knowledge of homegrown talent that is delivering an exceptional World Expo, and they speak a universal language of ambition and aspiration.”
A series of short films starring the mascots will be released over the coming year, each focusing on a theme of the Expo.
Latifa is an inquisitive eight-year-old girl who dreams of becoming one of the world’s greatest inventors. The chatty youngster – who loves playing with her chemistry set and disassembling electronics – is keen to share her knowledge and find opportunities to learn something new.
Her brother, nine-year-old Rashid, cares deeply for the environment and enjoys poetry, drawing, riddles and family tales passed down the generations.
The two siblings draw inspiration from the wisdom of Salama, a desert-dwelling Ghaf tree who overlooks the Expo 2020 site and was preserved during construction.
Under Salama’s watchful eye, Latifa and Rashid go on an exciting journey guided by the robots Opti, Alif and Terra – who represent Expo 2020’s three subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, respectively.